Visions of What Could Be, Bennington, VT, by Danina DiBattista

On a recent trip to Central New Hampshire, we passed through a few awesome little towns. Bennington, VT was a town that I fell in love with. It had great charm, an awesome business district, and we were just so happened to stop by on their annual “Midnight Madness” event: a yearly celebration of local businesses where stores stay open till at least midnight. There was live music in the streets, mini events happening within the businesses, and TONS of people out to support their town. We were really happy about this event when the owner of the motel that we stayed in informed us that it’s THE event of the year in Bennington.

We grabbed dinner at a local restaurant and decided to stroll around. This town had put the infrastructure in place to move the powerlines to secondary streets, it made for a beautiful streetscape. The abundance of people on the streets made it feel safe (the immediate upside to having nightlife in a small town). They had bump-outs to make pedestrian crossing safer, on street parking (I didn’t see a parking lot), and local-artist-made sculptures on the street corners. It was the exact sort of charm that Bellevue has the potential for! Nearly all of the storefronts had sidewalk seating, a very inviting and warm addition to a business district. We checked out art galleries, coffee shops, cafe’s, bistro’s, bars, and breweries. We stopped into a local brew pub for a drink (we had some great beers that are made on premise!) and to meet some locals. There was live music playing, not a seat in the house was open (standing room only, after we snatched up the last seats at the bar!), and a strong sense of community when speaking to the local crowd. Although the town seemed to have something for everyone, for every age and every interest…it was clear that the local economy was driven by the younger crowd. The streets were mostly dominated by younger people sipping coffee, business “hopping”, and enjoying cocktails, food, and conversation on the sidewalk cafe tables.

It was truly inspiring for me as a LiB member, it was a glimpse at what our awesome town could become with the right steps, a little risk, and some elbow grease. I think it would be worth every drop of sweat and every “change” that our borough is so worried about making. If everyone is so focused on clinging onto the past and not focused on changing the town for future generations, we will continue down the same path that we’re on now, leaving the youth with no choice but to “vote with their feet” and move on to other parts of Pittsburgh. The City of Pittsburgh is bursting at the seams with national awards and reasons to stay in the city. The towns around Pittsburgh are blowing up with businesses. Should we continue down the path of chasing the youth OUT, or should we see the opportunity to tap into all of the Pittsburgh Buzz and create a town that draws them in, gives them a place to live, shop, play, wine & dine? Now is the time for changes to be made!

Check the pictures Bennington, VT!

Stores along the business district, some sidewalk seating.

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 a bump out!

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entrance to a business, stairs are worn down from so many patrons over the years!

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one of the many artist-made sculptures in town

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Madison Brewing Co. entrance

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Madison Brewing Co. brewery

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live local music inside of Madison Brewing Co.

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For more information on Bennington, VT please check out their informative and attractive website at http://www.townofbennington.org/TOB/. In addition to general information about the town of Bennington, their website also provides resources concerning their economic plan, development plan, and so much more. Bennington’s website provides a wealth of information is invaluable for their community and would be an amazing addition to our own here in Bellevue!

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15 Responses to “Visions of What Could Be, Bennington, VT, by Danina DiBattista”

  1. I just want to add something that i forgot to add into the blog when i wrote it…
    This town had balance. Old town charm with new age restaurants, bistro’s, modern art. I don’t look at the future of Bellevue and see a generic looking town with no historical charm or no history. I think why I liked this town so much was because they embraced their history and old town aesthetics, but realized that they have to pair that with ambiance and recruit businesses that young people will patronize.

  2. This is an excellent article Danina! Before I got to the photo’s you had already created a lovely vision of Bennington with your words. Sounds like a fun trip, for sure.

    Another reason to keep the young people in town is because they have energy and fresh insight to help create spaces, places and experiences that attract people who will have fun, spend money and come back to do it all over again.

    Economic viability is ONE major reason for towns like Bellevue and my home – Pottstown to meet the challenge.

    Memorable experiences bring people back over and over again and they are also a big reason people choose where they’d like to buy a home and raise a family! Businesses choose to locate or relocate in communities where their employees will have plenty of fun, creative and wholesome things to do, for all ages.

    Sounds like Bennington, Vt. is fun and I’d love to see and experience it ~ thank you for this great prose!!! Katy

    • @Golden,
      thank you so much! I am working on a few more of these, and I plan on taking pictures and talking to locals about their small town business districts and revitalization efforts with every chance I get.
      I think it’s important to open peoples eyes to what we could have here, to show that growth is possible, a prosperous business district is possible, exposure to the city is possible…all with the right marketing, leadership, and commitment to a vision and a plan.

      Our leaders are OBSESSED with short term goals, quick fixes, and instant gratification…they keep forgetting that some day they will be gone, and the only legacy they will have left from their elected terms are MORE ordinances, MORE restrictions, LESS business friendly decisions, HIGHER taxes, a LESS family-friendly borough, and tons of useless other stuff for the future leaders to sort through and make sense of. It’s time for a new vision, it’s time for our leaders to realize that their time and their creativity has run out. Part of being a good leader is realizing when others can do it better than you. Now is that time.

  3. Paducha, KY. – In many ways they are the leaders in arts revitalization programs. Recently, a founder of that program was in PA talking to a community near Oil City. Oil City is also doing great works in revitalizing with the arts. One day, I’d like to make the trip to Paducha.

    It’s not easy to appeal to the “old school” town leaders, you are right…sometimes good leadership is realizing when it’s time to step out of the way and give others a chance. In Pottstown, we see council making decisions to “dig their heels in” and remain entrenched in obsolescence. Other than the sheer sense of power and control, it’s difficult to figure out how they actually benefit because there is no way, that we can see, they could wake up each day, survey their little “kingdom” and feel satisfied with what they have accomplished. It’s really quite tragic, the lack of passion for the positions they work so hard to cling to.

    Fortunately, this year we have 3 bright new council candidates so a lot our effort will be working hard to get them elected!! Meantime, like you, we keep generating cool concepts and great ideas in hopes that they will catch on!!

    http://www.paducahalliance.org/artist-relocation-program

  4. Hi all!
    I am currently a Home Owner in Bennington, VT.
    Due to a job offer in Syracuse I need to sell my home and move.
    This is an amazing article and if anyone reading it also falls in love with Bennington, check out my home…it could become yours!
    http://www.mapleleafvermont.com/index.php?action=listingview&listingID=36840
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151614250207169&type=1&l=8ef44d1a31

  5. Thanks for visiting, Danina! I am grateful for the vision of the folks here in Bennington that have worked long and hard to keep out downtown thriving amid the changing landscape of tourism and local economics. It’s not easy, and it’s never finished. There are plenty of folks who think it should go backwards, and just as many that don’t think it’s changed fast enough. You make some great points, and your perspective is invaluable. Come back soon!

    • Hi Greg! Thank you for responding! We really had a wonderful time there, and we pass through the area on our way to a family reunion in NH every summer…i hope we can stop in your town again! It was truly an inspiration for what I think our little town could become with the right people in place and the right ideas in place. We just need some leadership that says “yes, that’s a great idea, let’s find a way to make it happen” instead of “that won’t work here”.
      Please let me know if anything major happens in terms of the progress of Bennington…we truly loved it there!!!!

  6. Hi there, I’m the editor of the Bennington Banner. We so enjoyed this blog post – would you mind if we reprinted it on our Opinion page? We would attribute it to you and include your blog URL of course.
    Thank you,

    Michelle Karas
    Editor
    Bennington Banner
    425 Main St.
    Bennington, VT 05201

    Office: 802-447-7567, ext 110
    Fax: 802-442-3413
    mkaras@benningtonbanner.com
    http://www.benningtonbanner.com
    Twitter: @bannereditor

    • Hi Michelle,
      I would be more than happy to give you permission to post my blog on your site! I will also send you an official “go-ahead” via email shortly!

  7. Sharon Haley Galipeau Reply October 8, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Danina ~ Thank you for taking the time to comment on my hometown, Bennington, Vermont. It is interesting to see Bennington from a visitor’s perspective. I agree with you ~ Bennington is a charming town. I left Bennington approximately 48 years ago ~ I still have family there and visit four or five times a year. Each time I come home I notice a “new effort” to keep the downtown vital. Last visit, I remarked on the eye-catching display of a new antique shop in the Putnam Hotel Building. In view of the economy over the past five years, I applaud the town for “keeping things up”. Again, thank you for flattering remarks.

  8. Thanks so much for this great piece on Bennington, Danina. I’ve lived here for 30 years but grew up in Crafton (which was, at the time, in a major football rivalry with Bellevue HS). One of the reasons I fell in love with Bennington was that the people were so friendly and kind, and reminded me of fellow “Pittburghers”. We have a lot of folks from the Pittsburgh area living here in the Bennington area, and I’m sure they’ll be pleased to see your great article!

  9. Not to insult you but you sound like a tourist. There is absolutely NOTHING to do in this town for kids/teens unless they come from money(which most of them don’t). If you lived here(in the average apartment for example) you would get a more accurate view of life in this small town. For example, did you see the MAJOR drug raid that was on the news last year? Are you aware of just how economically depressed it is here? Did you know a former member of the business community was recently charged with running a prostitution ring? Have you seen all the dilapidated homes/roads? Yeah cute town..no thanks. If I weren’t stuck here for now I’d move back to the Oceanside city I grew up in..I felt much safer there.

    • Hi Rachel,
      Funny enough…I WAS a tourist in Bennington. We stayed for 2 days and had family that we visited. I saw the things that you mentioned in your post. Of course I am not aware of current events that you mentioned, but the condition of the homes outside of the business district area, yes I saw what you are talking about. However, I strongly believe that perfection is not a realistic vision for an area. Things will never be perfect, every business owner will not be fantastic, and prostitution is available in areas of wealth and depression. However, from what I saw, the business district and homes in the immediate vicinity of the business district were great. Also from what we observed, things were pretty affordable. Of course there needs to be things for kids/teens to do, but in order for a towns economy to sustain itself, money needs to be spent. So as bad as this may sound…it would be a bad business decision for a town to base a bunch of things around kids/teens (most kids/teens don’t spend a significant amount of money). I’m pretty up front and honest, and if I were developing a town, I would be sure to include parks and such for kids/teens. Other than that, a business owner would not be wise to focus on that age group considering that age group is one that rarely has a job or a bunch of extra money to spend.

      I hope that the success in the business district of Bennington works its way out into the more suburban areas of the city. Maybe it just needs some time. Or maybe it needs some people to really spearhead something to bring the prosperity from the business district to the suburbs.

      If I were you, I would not be so bitter towards those that are well off, after all…those that are well off are likely the employers of the many residents of Bennington, the parents of the kids/teens that you say are able to patronize the business district, and likely the ones that are well off are the ones that are investing into the area with updating their homes and developing businesses. It takes all walks of life for the world to go ’round.

  10. Every citizen of a community like Bennington and others across the country has to collaborate with their neighbors and contribute their time , effort and money to make a town a better place to live. I have lived in or around Bennington for more than 40 years and overall the town has improved, but since the inception of NAFTA and the economic changes in the USA and world wide numerous obstacle have sprung up; we are transitioning to a global economy , hopefully a sustainable one where everyone will benefit. Jobs are a problem nationwide , as are drugs and social problems, and so on. We have to make our best “citizen efforts” to counteract these impediments.Bennington is holding its own. Higher education has helped the community immensely as evidenced by the 5 institutions of higher learning that are part of the community, serving as economic and engagement resources that have long term benefits.

    Bennington has a very rich potential, but the groundwork is still being laid. As for the young people, family and the home culture have a huge influence. Life long education and learning will help solve many problems of this nature. People need to take charge of their own lives, live and behave appropriately to benefit themselves and the greater community. A lot of kids come from fragmented families, just like everywhere else. Aspects of America are a wasteland where financial profit dominates community concerns, social values, and the rest. On my travels to Europe, I found that they have been more successful on many levels than the USA is, in finding a workable balance, although they too have similar problems in many places.

    It is a very complicated challenge for all of us and we need to have the conversation bring us together to improve our sorroundings and develop long lasting values that will help all of us. So let’s be positive and keep on trying to make places better for everyone. Bennington has a ways to go, but there is a lot to be satisfied with in this scenic small town of less than 16,000 people!

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